One year ago, I stepped onto the pickleball court for an APP class taught by Zane Navratil.
While I can confidently say I’m a better player today, my growth curve hasn’t been as steep as I’d hoped.
I’m pretty awful with official self-assessment, but if I had to guess, I’ve shifted from 3.6 territory to maybe 3.9-ish? And that got me wondering, what’s missing from the equation? Why did I see such a dramatic improvement in my game when I first started playing but then the results tapered off?
So how long does it take to get good at pickleball? The answer is longer than I expected. Here are a few reasons why I might have hit a pickleball plateau.
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More Players, Higher Competition
Firstly, the pickleball landscape has been growing exponentially. More and more people are picking up the paddle, and with them, the level of competition is surging. While it’s a fantastic thing for the sport, this phenomenon has made it harder for me to gauge my improvement against a consistently evolving opponent base.
Frequency of Play
Another likely factor in my perceived plateau is the frequency of my play. Initially, I committed to playing two or three times a week. However, life happened, and I found myself on the court only once or twice a week. I now understand that pickleball, like any other sport, requires consistency. Reducing my court time has, in hindsight, probably hindered my progress.
Drills – The Missing Ingredient
Reflecting on my training sessions, I realize I’ve overlooked a vital aspect – pickleball drilling. Drills are the bread and butter of skill enhancement. They help reinforce proper technique, build muscle memory, and increase agility. I’ve been playing the game, but not practicing the game, if you catch my drift. This lack of targeted practice is likely a significant factor in my slower-than-expected growth.
Here’s a confession: I often use power to score against weaker opponents. While it gets me the points, it does little to improve my strategic skills or finesse. Instead, it has perhaps fostered a dependence on brute strength rather than the subtle strategies that separate good players from great ones.
Absence of Professional Pickleball Exposure
In retrospect, it’s quite strange that as a pickleball ambassador, I haven’t been watching professional pickleball matches. Observation is an excellent tool for learning. By watching pros, one can gain insights into advanced strategies, positioning, shot selection, and more. My lack of exposure to higher-level play might have limited my ability to understand and learn the finer nuances of the game.
Balancing Exercise and Time
This past year, I’ve also discovered the importance of incorporating other forms of exercise into my routine. However, with only 24 hours in a day, it’s been a challenge to strike a balance between pickleball, other workouts, and life’s responsibilities. But maintaining physical fitness is crucial, and its absence might be indirectly affecting my game.
Enjoying the Game
Lastly, I think my approach toward the game has evolved over this year. I’ve begun to enjoy the sport more and stress about my performance less. My focus has subtly shifted from relentless improvement to genuine enjoyment. While this might not be conducive to dramatic leaps in my skill level, it has enriched my overall experience. It’s a trade-off I’m comfortable with, even if it means my growth might be slower.
It’s been a year of learning not just about pickleball, but also about myself. While I continue to strive for improvement, I also acknowledge the need for balance. But you better believe I’m going to find a way to add some drilling into my routine!
Becoming a better pickleball player doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a process that requires time, practice, and patience. The specific duration can vary significantly from player to player, depending on factors such as prior athletic experience, ability to learn and adapt to new skills, amount of practice, the quality of coaching, and overall physical fitness.
For someone completely new to the sport, it could take several months to a year to grasp the basic rules, techniques, and strategies. Progressing to an intermediate level might require an additional year or two of consistent practice, drilling, and playing.
Becoming a truly proficient or advanced player could take several more years. Just like in any other sport, mastery requires thousands of hours of practice and play.
Remember, though, everyone’s journey is unique. Some people may progress faster or slower than others, and that’s okay. The most important thing is to enjoy the game, continue learning, and celebrate your improvements, big or small.